Of course, Italians are famous for their delicious food and I have sampled as much of it and as wide of a variety as I possibly can, but it isn’t just about eating the food. It Italy, food is a way for people to come together, socialize and bond. The dinners are longer and more courses, which gives ample time for loved ones to enjoy each other’s company. Cooking is a part of this process too. The Italian way to cook means buying all fresh ingredients and cooking together. I am by no means a chef. Fortunately, pasta is a staple part of the diet here in Italy and something simple that even I can handle. However, I wanted to broaden my horizons and learn how to cook some other, more complicated Italian dishes. I have had the pleasure of taking two cooking classes so far over this semester.
The first cooking class I took was part of my Intensive Italian course. Part of our assignment for the course was to go out to the market and order all of the ingredients we needed in only Italian. It can be a little intimidating going into a huge, unfamiliar food market and trying to order in a foreign language, but I’m so glad we did it! Our group was able to find and order everything we needed without using any English and now I actually love going to the market. It is great practice for Italian, all of the food is very fresh, and if you go to the same stand each time, you start to form a relationship with them.
For our first course in the cooking class, we made Zuppa di Lenticchie (Lentil Soup). Next, we had Peperoni al Forno (Baked Peppers). One interesting difference in food names in Italy is that what we typically think of as pepperoni in the US, is not at all the same here. Peperoni here just means peppers, so essentially bell peppers. The following course was a tasty Insalata Ricca (a type of salad). Next up was my group! We made Mozzarella in Carrozza, which is comparable to mozzarella sticks, but they are not entirely breaded and are even more delicious. Finally, we had a dessert of Salame di Cioccolato. When I first heard this, I was prepared to be disgusted. How can salami and chocolate possibly taste good together? I soon found out that Salame di Cioccolato doesn’t actually contain salami. It is just called that because it is made in a sort of log shape and looks almost like salami.
In the second cooking class I took, we learned how to make pasta from scratch! It actually was a lot easier than I expected and I can now say from experience that handmade pasta from scratch is, in fact, the best pasta. All it takes is a little flour and egg, mix it together until you get the proper consistency, and then just keep rolling it out until you get it flat enough to cut into pasta noodles.
For dessert, we made small pastries that look like pies, but are similar to the consistency of cheesecake, as they are made with ricotta. We made a mixture of orange and chocolate pastries and tried them all together. I might be biased, but I swear my pastry was the best.
I still may not be ready to go on Master Chef, but I can say I know how to cook at least a few traditional Italian dishes and had a lot of fun while doing it. I definitely plan on cooking some more home made meals here in Italy and maybe I’ll even continue cooking them in the States!